It is essential to understand that emotional numbness is not a conscious choice and must be compassionate with ourselves. Rather than resenting what has happened, we ought to be grateful to the ‘detached protector’ for saving our lives from unbearable pain.
“Oh God just look at me now… one night opens words and utters pain… I cannot begin to explain to you… this… I am not here. This is not happening. Oh wait, it is, isn’t it?
I am a ghost. I am not here, not really. You see skin and cuts and frailty…these are symptoms, you known, of a ghost.” ― Emily Andrews, The Finer Points of Becoming Machine
10 Signs Of Emotional Numbness
1. You are unable to experience or express emotions – positive or negative, including love and joy.
2. You routinely engage in mind-numbing activities such as TV watching or procrastination. You gain no pleasure from these activities, yet you do not feel motivated to do anything else.
3. You feel disconnected from your own body. You feel fatigued, lifeless, and do not receive signals from your body regarding huger, thirst, tiredness, or other needs.
4. You do not have reactions in situations that would typically evoke emotions such as watching movies or receiving certain news.
5. You feel like a passive observer of your life. Rather than living each moment with vitality, life seems unreal.
6. You go about each day in an auto-pilot mode. In emotional numbness or depersonalization, you are not truly living. You are watching your life in the audience seat.
7. You no longer find joy in doing the activities you once enjoyed. Your memories feel like someone else’s story.
8. You become less and less interested in socializing or connecting with people and feel detached from friends and family.
9. You feel no one knows the real you. And gradually, you know yourself less and less. You lose touch with your own interest, passions, and dream.
10. You feel a lingering sense of boredom.
Do You Want To Be Numb Forever?
Emotions are what makes us humans.
Emotional avoidance as a coping mechanism works for a while, but ultimately, your trauma and feelings are going to find a way to creep back. When the flood gate bursts open, you may be shocked, feel out of control, and frightened by your own behaviors. You may then turn to drastic measures to push the feelings back down, engaging in alcohol and drug abuse, overspending, bingeing, self-mutilation, and other impulsive behaviors.
If left untreated, emotional numbness can manifest itself in the form of chronic physical ailments. It is a vicious cycle that becomes exasperating and physically draining, leaving you with even lesser energy to engage with family and friends. To its extreme, just like many who have PTSD or Complex PTSD, you may develop suicidal ideations.
When we turn away from what we consider as negative emotions, we also say goodbye to joy, love, and all that life has to offer. In the end, we are lonely and stranded in a cold, barren place. There will always be a voice inside us that reminds us we are wasting our lives away without living fully.
Inside of you is a wild, innocent and playful child.
Deep down, you long to live life with your full heart, to feel safe and held by others around you, and to love them without holding back.
Numbness as a survival strategy does not have to be forever. Through the construction of emotional skills and resilience, you can begin to dip your feet into the deep waters of feeling. You can start with small steps such as learning the language of emotions or building the ability to regulate. Slowly but surely, you will re-open the door to experience life’s joy, abundance, and aliveness—things that a hidden part of you has long been yearning for.
“Dissociation, a form of hypnotic trance, helps children survive the abuse…The abuse takes on a dream-like, surreal quality and deadened feelings and altered perceptions add to the strangeness. The whole scene does not fit into the ‘real world.’ It is simple to forget, easy to believe nothing happened.” ― Renee Fredrickson